At Unesp, Paiva had noticed in 2005 what he referred to as the paradoxical effect of cigarette smoke: rats that had taken in great quantities of smoke and had then undergone an induced heart attack survived longer than the rats of the control group, who had only undergone a heart attack. "Perhaps smoking creates a pre-condition against the lack of oxygen, thus protecting the heart from the bigger evil, which is a heart attack waiting to happen", Paiva supposes. An unexpected result came from another experiment: beta carotene, a substance that should protect the organism from chronic diseases, eliminated the protective effect of cigarettes. A substance that eliminates residues called free radicals, beta carotene is found in carrots, papaya and mango; beta carotene protected the hearts of normal rats, according to a study published in 2006 in Toxicological Sciences. In another study, published in the Arquivos Brasileiros de Cardiologia journal in 2007, beta carotene increased the damage from smoking on the heart of rats that had undergone induced acute myocardial infarction and afterwards had been exposed to cigarette smoke. Experiments with lab animals are useful because they help formulate hypotheses on what can happen to people; however, they have to be viewed moderately because, among other reasons, "lab experiments are conducted under super stimuli and for a short time", says Tucci. "We have to consider experimental results from a non-terrorist point of view". The Projects 1. Effects of exposure to cigarette smoke and to dietary supplements with beta carotene on the intracellular communication in rat cardiomyocites; Modality: Regular Funding of Research Project; Coordinator: Sergio Alberto Rupp de Paiva - Unesp; Investment: R$ 110.885,88 2. Adjustment mechanism in calcium kinetics in the myocardium following sudden ventricular dilatation (nº 05/55980-3); Modality: Regular Funding of Research Project; Coordinator: Paulo José Ferreira Tucci - Unifesp; Investment: R$ 91.736,88 3. Evaluation of genotoxicity in the pregnancy of rats with moderate diabetes (nº 06/06056-4); Modality: Regular Funding of Research Project; Coordinator: Débora Cristina Damasceno - Unesp; Investment: R$ 119.103,28 Scientific Articles Portes, L.A. et al. Swimming training attenuates remodeling, contractile dysfunction and congestive heart failure in rats with moderate and large myocardial infarctions. Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology & Physiology. v. 36, p. 394-399. 2009. Lima, P.H.O. et al. Levels of DNA damage in blood leukocyte samples from non-diabetic and diabetic female rats and their fetuses exposed to air or cigarette smoke. Mutation Research. v. 31, p. 44-49. 2008. Castardeli, et al. Exposure time and ventricular remodeling induced by tobacco smoke exposure in rats. Medical Science Monitor. v. 14, p. 62-66. 2008. [post_title] => More damage from smoke [post_excerpt] => Cigarettes impair the functioning of the heart muscles [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => more-damage-from-smoke [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-01-26 16:03:21 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-01-26 18:03:21 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 ) [1] => stdClass Object ( [ID] => 27217 [post_author] => 17 [post_date] => 2009-07-01 00:00:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2009-07-01 00:00:00 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_62118" align="alignright" width="200"] Sugar cane fields: being tested for environmental impact[/caption] Mechanized sugar cane harvesting is expected to increase the amount of carbon in the soil because it covers the soil with straw which slowly decomposes, in contrast with the manual harvesting process, which is based on the burning of leaves to facilitate the cutting. Likewise, converting degraded pasture land into sugar cane fields is also expected to increase the amount of carbon in the soil, says Marcelo Galdos, a researcher at the University of São Paulo/USP's Centro de Energia Nuclear na Agricultura/Cena, Center of Nuclear Energy in Agriculture. Galdos headed the analysis of the carbon flow in sugar cane fields in Brazil, Australia and South Africa. The results were published in May in two scientific journals, the Soil Science Society of America Journal and Plant and Soil. This topic was also discussed on June 16 at the workshop on the Social, Economic, Environmental and Land Use Impacts organized by FAPESP as part FAPESP's Programa de Pesquisa em Bioenergia, Bioenergy Research Program/Bioen. "We have to use conservation agriculture, transferring the carbon gas (CO2) from the air to the plants and to the soil", says Carlos Clemente Cerri, a professor at Cena who acted as the advisor for these two projects. Researchers from the USA's Colorado State University and from South Africa's Sugar Cane Research Institute participated in the two projects. "The manually harvested sugar cane, which includes burning the leaves, reduces the stock of carbon in the soil; when the leaves are not burned, the amount of carbon in the soil increases", Cerri stated. He added that mechanized harvesting can cause the soil to retain up to three tons of carbon in three years, "a significant result that can be deducted from the greenhouse gas emissions generated by the production of ethanol". No consensus has been reached yet in regard to these values. "We haven't found any major benefits by leaving the straw on the soil", said Urquiaga, a researcher at the Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária/Embrapa Agrobiologia, Agricultural Research Center. He obtained more modest results - a mere 300 kilograms of carbon per hectare in the course of the sixteen years during which he kept track of sugar cane fields in the State of Pernambuco that had been harvested with and without burning. "We cannot restrict ourselves to worrying only about the carbon; we have to reflect on the dynamics of organic material and the role of nitrogen", he said. "If things were different, all we would have to do would be to bury the sugar cane bagasse to transfer the carbon to the soil." In his opinion, the amount of carbon retained in the soil depends on the residues, the level of degradation (more seriously degraded soil retains more carbon than the well-preserved soil does) and the soil's capacity to accumulate carbon. "At the beginning, the soil accumulates large quantities, and later it accumulates less", he pointed out. During the day's discussions, the researchers agreed that converging methodologies need to be established to obtain more extensive and accurate information on the impact of sugar cane ethanol production and possible effects on the reduction of greenhouse gases such as carbon, which cause global warming. "Calculating the impact and environmental benefits depends on knowledge of the impact on the use of soil which is still not clear", said Isaías de Carvalho Macedo, from the Núcleo Interdisciplinar de Planejamento Estratégico/Nipe, Strategic Planning Center at the State University of /Unicamp. Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, scientific director of FAPESP, encouraged the researchers to conduct studies whose findings would be published in international journals. In general, "results remain hidden in Portuguese-language publications. We need to have more international exposure in this respect". In his opinion, one of the upcoming challenges is "to produce globally competitive science", by increasing the number of scientists and the scientific competency in this field, to maintain the leadership of ethanol production technology. "Brazil is at the forefront in this respect, and has the experience, but this leadership position is not guaranteed", said Marcos Jank, a professor at USP's School of Economics, Administration and Accounting/FEA) and president of the União da Indústria de Cana-de-açúcar/Unica, Sugar Cane Industry Trade Association. "The next step depends on investments and planning. I have seen a lot of duplication, lack of integration and lack of planning", he pointed out, adding that he has met with directors of foreign companies with budgets amounting to approximately US$ 50 million for new product development, such as sugar cane-based hydrocarbons. Research institutes are also investing heavily in this field. Last May, the Energy Biosciences Institute, a public-private consortium comprised of two US universities and an energy company, announced the first 49 research projects for which US$ 20 million have been allocated of the US$500 million reserved for research in this field in the next ten years. Evan Delucia, from the University of Illinois, was one of the speakers at the workshop. The University of Illinois is one of the partners of the Energy Biosciences Institute. At the FAPESP event, Delucia described the research studies on ethanol taking place in the United States on other plants, for example, corn. Deforestation. In Brazil, sugar cane plantations are still associated with deforestation, a problem that Jank tried to minimize at the event. In early June, former US president Bill Clinton praised Brazil's sugar cane ethanol at a world ethanol summit held in São Paulo. He said that this ethanol could avoid greenhouse gas emissions, but pointed out that the emissions from deforestation, especially in the Amazon Region, are still very high. Two weeks later, Jank stated that: "Sugar cane does not cause deforesting, because sugar cane is being planted on pasture land." In one of the chapters of the Sugarcane ethanol - Contributions to climate change mitigation and the environment, by Peter Zuurbier and Jos van de Vooren, a team coordinated by André Meloni Nassar, general director of the Instituto de Estudos do Comércio e Negociações/Ícone institute and one of the coordinators of the projects taking place at Bioen, observed that the sugar cane fields are not encroaching upon the country's agricultural frontiers and do not directly pressure the native vegetation in any region of the country. According to Jank, it is actually the pasture lands that take over the spaces previously taken up by forests and other kinds of natural vegetation. "The problem is indirect deforestation, which is still not being accurately measured". "It is not enough to be a fuel", said Heitor Cantarella, coordinator of Bioen's agronomy and land use work group and a researcher at the Instituto Agronômico de Campinas, Agronomy Institute. "Ethanol needs to pass sustainability tests and prove that it is environmentally acceptable". Glaucia Mendes Souza, coordinator of the Bioen, said that one of the objectives of the research program and the meetings with experts is to define the regions that need more attention and investments. Launched in July 2008, Bioen's initial investments total R$ 73 million for research on sugar cane varieties, production processes of ethanol and other by-products, and the social, economic and environmental impact of the use and production of biofuels. [post_title] => Healthy Plowing [post_excerpt] => Carbon retained in the soil is expected to increase with mechanization [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => healthy-plowing [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-01-26 16:06:58 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-01-26 18:06:58 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 ) [2] => stdClass Object ( [ID] => 27218 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2009-07-01 00:00:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2009-07-01 00:00:00 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_62185" align="alignright" width="258"] Well-paid lunch: attacks on caterpillars[/caption] As he was walking through the woods in the Mata Atlântica, Atlantic Rainforest, and noticed that the pulp of the fruit of a jatobá tree (Hymenaea courbari) was being devoured by ants, biologist Paulo Oliveira, from the State University of Campinas/Unicamp, began to question the widespread notion that these social insects play a despicable role in seed ecology. Nearly 15 years later, the research group, immersed in the intimacy of the relationship between plants and seeds, has shown that these tiny insects not only drag seeds to more suitable places, but also clean them, thus facilitating germination. "The spreading of seeds in the tropics is much more complex than had been previously believed", says Oliveira. Most of the spotlights on studies on the ecology of seed dispersal are focused on birds, monkeys and other vertebrates attracted by the colorful fruit and tasty pulp of nine out of ten species of large trees and shrubs. These animals carry the fruit for long distances and throw the seeds on the ground. If the fruit drops accidentally, it is sometimes nearly intact; even after it goes through the animals' digestive system, a good part of the pulp is still left over. What happens on the ground, however, had gone virtually unnoticed until Oliveira established the bases of his research study. One of the most recent findings in this respect come from the doctorate studies of Alexander Christianini, who is now a professor at the Sorocaba campus of the Federal University of São Carlos/UFScar. He and Oliveira showed that in the tropical savanna region of the Cerrado de Itirapina, in the state of São Paulo, five species of ants gather the seeds that drop to the ground. In an article published this month in Oecologia journal, the biologists suggest that an important role is played by ants after the birds transport the seeds far away from the parent tree: the ants do the more detailed gardening work. Birds and monkeys usually deposit the seeds under a tree. The leftover pulps attract the ants, which then carry bits of the pulp to the anthill. "The clean seed is left on the forest ground", says Oliveira, "preventing the fungi from installing themselves inside and killing the plant embryo". In addition, some ants carry the seeds to the anthill, which the researcher describes as being an "island of nutrients", as the anthill contains discarded parts of plants and the remains of dead ants and other insects. The jatobá pulp (Hymenaea courbaril) aroused the researcher's curiosity. An experiment he conducted with colleagues from São Paulo State University in Rio Claro and from the Federal University of Mato Grosso, showed that 70% of the seeds that had been cleaned by the ants had already sprung seedlings, in comparison to the 20% of the seeds that had not been cleaned by the tiny gardeners. From 1995 onwards, this line of research has resulted in four doctorate degrees which revealed that this relationship is quite common in the Mata Atlântica and the Cerrado. Biologist Inara Leal showed that the leafcutter ants, which include the saúvas, (attas) also act as gardeners. Anyone looking at the long line - that resembles a miniature highway - of ants carrying pieces of leaves and flowers on their backs fears for the destiny of the destroyed plant. It is no wonder that a single ant colony can collect 30 kilograms of plants a day to be used as fertilizer for the fungi that they raise and feed on. These ants are able, in a matter of hours, to reduce a leafy shrub into a dry stub; but the important point for the biologist is that the leafcutters also carry fruits and seeds. After receiving her doctorate degree from Unicamp, Inara was hired as a professor by the Federal University of Pernambuco. She noticed that the Atta sexdens saúva ants are attracted by the yellow aril, an appendage of the seeds of the copaíba (Copaifera langsdorffii) tree, a tree that is commonly found in the Cerrado and Mata Atlântica. The rufous-bellied thrush and the guan are the main carriers of the copaiba seeds. The saúva ants carry the seeds a distance of up to ten meters, remove the nutritious aril and often break open the seed's hard outer shell, which also helps germination, according to an article published in Biotropica in 1998. The same thing happens with the Cerrado's native plants. [caption id="attachment_62184" align="alignleft" width="300"] Well-paid lunch: transportation of fruit benefit plants[/caption] Easy prey Marco Pizo, who was Inara's colleague at Oliveira's lab during the same period, concentrated on the interaction between plants and ants in the Mata Atlântica and showed that the nutritious red aril found around the seeds of the canjerana tree (Cabralea canjerana) attracts carnivorous ants. "For the carnivorous ants, protein-rich, fatty fruits are like insects that don't fight, don't bite and don't run away", Oliveira says. Pizo, who is currently at the Vale do Rio dos Sinos University/Unisinos in the State of Rio Grande do Sul, spread seeds with and without pulp on the forest grounds; the seeds were encased in small cages to prevent them from being eaten by bigger animals. It became clear that the ants prefer the seeds with pulps (70% of the red part is fat) and that these seeds germinate much faster after they are sown by small insects, as highlighted in a cover story published in the American Journal of Botany in 1998. After having proved that ants transport seeds, the researchers had to investigate whether this dispersal is guided or random. During her doctorate studies under Oliveira, Luciana Passos investigated the relationship between plants and ants in the restinga (coastal tropical and sub-tropical moist broadleaf forest) on Ilha do Cardoso island, off the south coast of São Paulo State. Part of the Mata Atlântica, Atlantic Rainforest, this forest is less exuberant because it grows on sandy, nutrient-poor soil. She spread pieces of sardines around the island to attract the carnivorous ants; the ants led her back to their nests - she found 21 nests. In an article published in the Journal of Ecology in 2002, Luciana describes what happens with the oil-rich fruit of the Clusia criuva, or clúsia, tree, which in one season produces approximately 5,800 fruit with a total of 25 thousand seeds. Most of the seeds (83%) end up in the feces of 14 different bird species. The researcher noticed that the seeds that drop to the ground are transported to up to a distance of ten meters by the Odontomachus and Pachycondyla carnivorous ants of the ponerinae subfamily, "whose sting is painful as that of wasps", says Oliveira. But this is not the end of the story. Luciana did more research and observed that these ants remove 98% of the not totally digested seeds that end up in the bird feces. The biologist counted the number of clusia seedlings and noticed a disproportionate number of them next to the anthills - double the number of seeds she had noticed in the forest. In addition, she maintained a census of the seedlings for one year and noticed that they had a much higher chance of survival around the anthills. Luciana sent samples of this soil for analysis to the Instituto Agronômico de Campinas, Agronomy Institute, and found that it contained more nitrogen and potassium than the rest of the forest soil, thanks to the detritus accumulated by the ants. The same holds true for the maria-faceira (Guapira opposita) tree, whose black, red-stemmed fruits attract birds such as araçaripoca (Selenidera maculirostris) and the saíra-sete-cores (Tangarta seledon). This fruit has a high (28%) protein content, according to an article published in Oecologia journal in 2004. The Odontomachus ants carry the seeds to up to 4 meters and seedlings grow around their anthills. The group from Unicamp developed a system which measures how deep a pole penetrates into the soil and showed that the ants' digging results in loose soil, rich in potassium, phosphorus and calcium. Alexander Christianini went further and showed how the deforestation of the Cerrado invalidates the ants' positive effect on plant ecology. Scientists already know that the center of the forest is cooler and more humid than the forest that borders the deforested regions. The researcher showed that big ants are more common in the inner region of the Cerrado, where the soil is nutrient-rich and softer. He monitored this region for one year and during this time he noticed that 92% of the ant colonies deep inside the forest persist for longer period, in comparison to 30% of the ant colonies that persist at the edge of the forest. As in the Mata Atlântica, plants in the Cerrado germinate better next to anthills, while seedlings on the borders have a 0.2% chance of surviving the first year of life. These results clearly show that deforesting has a significantly harmful effect on ants and on plants. Thanks to their gardening skills, which contribute to the germination of seeds, ants can help recover damaged forests. [caption id="attachment_62183" align="alignright" width="300"] Other ant species, like the Odontomachus chelifer, are food for the Pachycondyla striata predator ant[/caption] The group from Unicamp has made many other discoveries on the ecological functions of these miniature soldiers and workers that live in groups comprised of millions of ants. Some plants produce substances to attract ants, and the ants, in turn, act as defense troops. This is the case of the pequi (Caryocar brasiliense), a plant native to the Cerrado, whose fruits are widely used and appreciated in regional cuisine. The ants enjoy the nectar that comes from the glands of the pequi flower buds and attack other insects, such as caterpillars. Sebastián Sendoya, one of Oliveira's students, and André Freitas showed that the Eunica bechina butterflies, which lay their eggs on the pequi leaves, fly over the plants and detect predator ants. The paper, published in this month's issue of American Naturalist, describes how the visual sophistication of butterflies allows them to lay eggs on safe leaves and even recognize harmless ants. All of this information is found in what Oliveira considers to be his life project: the book The ecology and evolution of ant-plant interactions, which he wrote in partnership with his Mexican colleague, Victor Rico-Gray. Published by the Chicago University Press in 2007, the book is an extensive review of all the known ecological interactions between ants and plants. "People think that the vertebrate animals are more important, because they are easily visible", says the biologist from Unicamp, "but in the Amazon Region, the dry weight of the invertebrate creatures is four times higher than that of the vertebrate animals". Ants, whose colonies can comprise up to millions of workers, are among the most numerous invertebrate creatures. The Project Ecology and the behavior of neotropical ants (nº 08/54058-1); Modality Regular Funding of Research Project; Coordinator Paulo de Oliveira; Investment R$ 113.080,54 Scientific articles CHRISTIANINI, A. V. and OLIVEIRA, P. S. The relevance of ants as seed rescuers of a primarily bird-dispersed tree in the Neotropical cerrado savanna. Oecologia. v. 160, n. 4, p. 735-745. Jul. 2009. SENDOYA, S.F. et al. Egg-laying butterflies distinguish predaceous ants by sight. The American Naturalist. v. 174, n. 1, p. 134-139. Jul. 2009. [post_title] => Faithful gardeners [post_excerpt] => Ants help seeds germinate in the Mata Atlântica and in the Cerrado [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => faithful-gardeners [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-01-26 16:05:44 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-01-26 18:05:44 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 ) [3] => stdClass Object ( [ID] => 27219 [post_author] => 40 [post_date] => 2009-07-01 00:00:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2009-07-01 00:00:00 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_62218" align="alignright" width="300"] Over the Atlantic: winds carry dust from the Sahara to South America[/caption] In an intriguing paradox of the Earth's climate system, one of the planet's driest regions seems to have an important role in the formation of the rains that water one of the planet's most humid regions. Experiments conducted during the rainiest season of the year on part of a preserved forest in the Central Amazon Region, in the vicinity of Manaus, indicate that dust from the Sahara Desert, transported over hundreds of thousands of kilometers by winds over the tropical Atlantic Ocean to South America, help form the clouds responsible for 80% of the rain in this region. The dust particles over the forest act like ice nuclei, microscopic platforms around which water in solid state is aggregated and creates the very high clouds full of rainwater. The results of this study, published in the May issue of Nature Geoscience journal, are astonishing and still need to be refined, points out physicist Paulo Artaxo, from the University of São Paulo/USP), and one of the authors of the study. "We need to find out, for example, if this influence from the Sahara dust is also found in other regions of the Amazon Region. We also need long-term measurements, registered over several years, to understand how this effect varies according to the seasons of the year", says the researcher. At any rate, the data obtained near the peak of the rainy season at the Reserva Biológica do Cuieiras, Biological Reserve, located 60 kilometers to the north of Manaus, suggests that dust from the Sahara makes an important contribution to the concentration of ice nuclei in the Central Amazon Region. Artaxo and researchers from the United States and Germany collected samples of the air in this part of the forest from February 9 to March 9, 2008 and found these dust particles in up to 80% of the ice nuclei. The dust seems to alternate its function as main seeder of ice clouds with the so-called primary biological particles (bacteria, pollen particles, spores and fragments of leaves and insects), emitted by the forest itself. The dust or the particles, alternately, were responsible for forming the ice nuclei. Together, the two sources generated 99% of the cloud seeding - neither source contributed with less than 15% of the nuclei. The analogy with seeds is very useful. In the Amazon Region, clouds that form at high altitudes are 15 to 18 kilometers deep and contain ice crystals. These clouds generate heavier and more abundant rain, essential for the region's hydrologic cycle. Smaller clouds are 3 to 5 kilometers deep and are closer to the earth. They are formed of liquid droplets and have less influence on the rainfall over the Amazon Region. In this study, the researchers collected particles in suspension - also referred to as aerosols - from the forest air at ground level and injected them into a chamber that simulates the formation of deep, convective clouds. "We used a chamber that reproduces atmospheric conditions up to 8 kilometers above ground and up to a temperature of minus 70 degrees Celsius", said the physicist. The deep, convective clouds, the ones that sprout from ice nuclei and account for most of the rainfall in the Amazon Region, are formed in a similar environment, under low pressure and at a low temperature. "We're planning to conduct experiments with airplanes in the period from 2010 to 2011, to take measurements in regions of the atmosphere where the ice clouds form. Measuring these particles at high altitudes is no trivial matter", says Artaxo. The contribution of the dust from the Sahara to the rainfall in the Amazon had never been witnessed, even though the journey of the dust particles over the Atlantic Ocean was relatively well known. Data provided by NASA, the US's National Space Agency, suggest that 4% of the dust from each desert storm crosses the ocean to the Americas - while a higher proportion, nearly 20%, gets lost on the way, depositing iron particles that fertilize the sea water and increase the capacity of the algae to absorb the carbon from the atmosphere. Wind storms in the Sahara alone do not bring the dust here. There seems to be a permanent reservoir of particles floating over the north of Africa, which only moves forward towards the Americas if the wind conditions are appropriate. A significant degree of mystery is still involved in the physical processes of the actions of the aerosols - whether they are dust aerosols or biological ones - such as the ice nuclei. "These processes are still not completely understood", Artaxo acknowledges. The existence of certain metals - iron, in the case of the Sahara dust - and zinc, in the particles produced by the forests - seem to be important for the formation of ice nuclei. In addition, the existence and the proportion of chemical elements such as aluminum, silica, manganese and iron have allowed the Saharan origin of the dust analyzed by Artaxo and his team to be confirmed. "The proportion of these elements in the particles found over Manaus is the same as the one found in the Sahara dust. And there is a correlation between the existence of these aerosols, which shows that this is not dust raised by a truck traveling on a road in the vicinity of the collection site, but of long-distance atmospheric transportation", Artaxo explains. In the physicist's opinion, although the contribution from the Sahara to the rainfall is revealed as a general phenomenon in relation to the Amazon Region, it is difficult to envision the meaning of all this in the context of climate change. On a warmer planet, will dust get here in higher or lower quantities: "For the time being, we need to obtain more experimental data to try and answer this with quantitative forecasts", he states. In another recent article, published this time in Science journal, Artaxo left the specific context of the Amazon Region on the sidelines with researchers from other countries, to pore over the effects of fire on the planet's climate and biosphere over time. Big and small fires, for example, helped create various savannas around the world in the course of millions of years. And these effects seem to be intensifying, says Artaxo. "We have witnessed an increase in fires breaking around all over the world in the last few years", he states. The team calculated that the effects of the greenhouse gases produced by the fires correspond to 19% of the human beings' contribution to global warming since the pre-industrial era. "Fires in Brazil generate approximately 30% of the gases emitted by fires on the planet", the physicist points out. Regardless of the numbers, the practical point is that in terms of the cost/benefit ratio, eliminating fires is probably one of the best immediate investments against global warming caused by humans. Eliminating fires would be more efficient than extending the network of nuclear plants or substituting the current fleet of automobiles that run on fossil fuels with vehicles that run on biofuels or hydrogen. "If we controlled the fires, we would have a quick return in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, with a very low investment. We would also gain other benefits, such as the preservation of the Amazon Region's biodiversity", the physicist points out. "The speedier construction of nuclear power plants or the global renovation of the automobile fleet would take decades to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions". According to Artaxo, there is an indirect relationship between the growing lack of control over fires on the planet and the hypothesis that the Amazon Region will turn into savanna. This possibility, which appears quite frequently in climate models that try to predict the future of the forest, is the consequence of the transformation of vast regions of virgin forest into forms of more open, ecologically impaired vegetation that resemble, to some extent, the Cerrado (subtropical savanna) region in central Brazil. "The advance of deforestation and the possible reduction in rainfall rates, might lead to the increase in vegetation that is more susceptible to fire, which would increase the number of fires", says Artaxo. "This would generate a positive re-feeding that would speed up the transformation of the Amazon Region into a savanna". Fool's gold The intense exploitation of natural resources in the Amazon Region generates temporary prosperity The predominant economic model nowadays in the Amazon Region - which includes deforestation, lumber exploitation, and transforming vast tracts of untouched land into pasture land or farmland - generates poverty rather than wealth, at least in the long term. This conclusion is the result of an analysis conducted by researchers from Brazil, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Portugal, published in the June 12 issue of Science. The municipalities of the Amazon Region that have not been affected by deforestation have a low Human Development Index/HDI, an indicator that takes into consideration the income, education, and life expectancy of the population. The opening up of the agricultural frontier has allowed these municipalities to enjoy a wave of prosperity; however, when the natural resources are depleted because of intense exploitation, the HDI goes back to the initial low levels. The analysis did not evaluate the situation of the municipalities throughout the years because no timely series in this respect was available, explains Portuguese biologist Ana Rodrigues, from France's Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionnelle Montpellier, who was one of the authors of the study. This study included the participation of Brazil's Carlos Sousa Júnior and Adalberto Veríssimo, from the Instituto do Homem e Meio Ambiente da Amazônia/Imazon, Human and Environmental Institute. In view of this fact, the research team compared places that had not yet been overtaken by the agricultural frontier with other places where the agricultural frontier is very active, and with regions where deforestation and land occupation have nearly been concluded. "We used two variables in this classification: the percentage of deforested area until 2000, which provides an idea of the extent of the deforestation; and the proportion of the forest that was cleared in the period from 1997 to 2000, which indicated whether the municipality was at the active frontier or not", says Ana. The year 2000 was used as a reference to coincide with the year of the Brazilian Census, which allowed the HDI of the municipal regions to be calculated. Records show that the municipalities that deforested up to 60% of their area - and 0.5% of the total area in the period from 1997 to 2000 - achieved an HDI equivalent to the average Brazilian index. In contrast, the HDI where the proportion of deforestation was much higher and devastation was almost total, was similar to that in the regions of the Amazon Region where the forest is preserved - in both cases the HDI is lower than the average human development index in Brazil. "We know about the existence of models that prevent economic decadence in spite of deforestation, although I suspect that they would depend on frequent investments coming from elsewhere", says Ana. The challenge is to create a development model that would result in as little deforestation as possible. "Everybody would win: it would be good for people, for ecosystems and would reduce carbon emissions responsible for global climate changes", she adds. "The situation is very bad on these three fronts". Scientific Articles Prenni, A. J. et al. Relative roles of biogenic emissions and Saharan dust as ice nuclei in the Amazon basin. Nature Geoscience. v. 2, p. 402-405. May 2009. Bowman, D. M., et al. Fire in the Earth system. Science. v. 324, p. 481-484. April 2009. [post_title] => The rain that comes from the Sahara [post_excerpt] => Dust from Saara feeds clouds that are responsible for rainfall in the Amazon [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-rain-that-comes-from-the-sahara [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-09-08 17:40:17 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-09-08 20:40:17 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 ) [4] => stdClass Object ( [ID] => 27220 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2009-07-01 00:00:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2009-07-01 00:00:00 [post_content] => A complex device equipped with small glass boxes and a super sensitive camera allowed French researchers - one of whom lives in the State of Paraíba - to describe how light behaves under very special conditions. When a photon - a particle of light - hits a rubidium atom - and then another one and still another one - the atom travels distances that follow a pattern named Lévy flight. The result, published at the end of May on the Nature Physics journal website, is the first statistical description of this physical phenomenon based on experimental observations; it can help predict the propagation of photons in certain situations. "Many researchers have looked for natural events that follow Lévy flights", says physicist Martine Chevrollier, from the Federal University of Paraíba/UFPB. The random movements are characterized by a series of small steps interspersed with rare longer displacements. This is exactly what happened in the experiment where photons were launched into atomic steam at 47 degrees Celsius, whose rubidium atoms float at a certain distance one from the other. Under this low density, the photons bump into a single atom each time and the researchers can measure these interactions in detail. The work of the French researcher who lives in Paraíba shows an interaction in these encounters in which an atom absorbs a photon and re-emits it into another direction, in the manner of a player who gets the ball and kicks it over to the other side. The interaction between photons and atoms has a particular characteristic: if the frequency of the vibration is similar between the two particles, which happens most of the time, the photon is launched at a short distance - 5 millimeters on average. "However, there is a tiny probability that the frequency of the atom might be too far from the photon", says Martine. When this happens, the photon is re-emitted with a different frequency from the previous one, in an effect known as the Doppler effect and this is why it travels much longer distances, of up to 50 millimeters. However, this change in frequency only happens at very low temperatures, is only obtained in a laboratory environment. Researchers already imagined that this could happen in theory. "The difficult thing is to observe this interaction", says the researcher. She had unsuccessfully attempted to try the experiment in her lab. It was necessary to control precisely the conditions to photograph the trajectory of the photons and the distance traveled by each photon with an ultra sensitive camera. This is why the experimental part was conducted at the University of Nice, in France. Martine participated during the calculations and analyses results phase. "The special conditions of the experiments we conducted were merely imposed by a technique created to measure the photons' individual steps", explains the physicist. But the Lévy flight is very common in phenomena that involve the spreading of light and happens, for example, in stars, fluorescent lamps and part of the suns rays that are propagated in the atmosphere and in the sea. Animal world The Lévy flight also accurately describes some ecological phenomena, explains physicist Marcos da Luz, from the Federal University of Paraná/UFPR. Until some time ago, the general belief was that everything followed normal distributions, where average events are very common and the very small ones or the very big ones are rare. Recently, however, convincing data has indicated that many animals - such as jackals, bees, penguins and others - follow Lévy flights. Together with his colleagues Gandhi Mohan Viswanathan, from the Federal University of Alagoas, and Ernesto Raposo, from the Federal University of Pernambuco, the physicist from UFPR has used Lévy flights to understand how these animals search for food. The Lévy flight is an advantage, for example, when a source of food is distributed randomly and sparsely. The most advantageous strategy for an animal searching for food is, in these cases, to make small movements for some time to search the surroundings. If the animal doesn't find any food, then it's better for it to move on to a distant place, where the probability of finding food might be higher. Several research studies have shown that this pattern is very common in nature, as is discussed in the review published in 2008 in Physics of Life Reviews, by Viswanathan, Raposo and Luz. They show that a wide variety of animals, from amoebas to whales, seem to adopt Lévy flights for their displacements. In an on-going collaboration, the three physicists from Paraná, Alagoas, and Pernambuco are now working on detailed analyses to formalize the theory of Lévy flights in a strict mathematical context. By doing so, they hope to describe, by using mathematical formulas, not only what happens with individual movements - the more commonly observed situations so far - but also what happens during collective search procedures, such as groups of monkeys that follow internal rules to coordinate the routes in order to increase the chances of finding food. To encourage scientific discussion on this topic, the three researchers are organizing a special issue of the Journal of Physics A, with review articles and original papers on random search movements. The issue is scheduled for publication in October this year. Scientific articles MERCADIER, N. et al. Lévy flights of photons in hot atomic vapours. Nature Physics. 2009. VISWANATHAN, G. M. et al. Lévy flights and superdiffusion in the context of biological encounters and random searches. Physics of Life Reviews. v. 5, n. 3, p. 133-150. set. 2008. [post_title] => Accidental paths [post_excerpt] => Physicists describe random routes of light and animals [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => accidental-paths [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-09-08 17:42:26 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-09-08 20:42:26 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 ) ) [technology] => Array ( [0] => stdClass Object ( [ID] => 27221 [post_author] => 22 [post_date] => 2009-07-01 00:00:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2009-07-01 00:00:00 [post_content] => In the search for more efficient micro organisms for the production of ethanol, two Brazilian researchers used distinct methods to develop two new yeast strains of the Saccharomyce cerevisiae species, able to produce higher quantities of the substance. Yeasts - tiny, microscopic fungi - play a crucial role in the transformation of sugar into alcohol during the fermentation process in sugar mills. The group headed by professor Boris Ugarte Stambuk, from the Federal University of Santa Catarina/UFSC, resorted to genome engineering, while the researchers coordinated by professor Cecília Laluce, from Paulista State University/Unesp in Araraquara, São Paulo State, resorted to classic genetics to obtain a hybrid from selected yeasts. "We intervened in the genome of the Saccharomyces to modify how it acts on the fermentation and thus we were able to optimize the process", says Stambuk, of UFSC's Biochemistry Department at the Center of Biology Sciences. Stambuk also coordinates a research group at the institution, created in 1997, that conducts research studies on molecular biology and yeast biotechnology. "We were able to obtain 10% to 15% more ethanol with the same quantity of sucrose". The strategy was to modify how the Sacaccharomyce produce the invertase enzyme, responsible for speeding up the hydrolysis of sucrose carbohydrates, transforming them into glucose and fructose. This reaction, which occurs outside the yeast cell, is called extra cellular hydrolysis. Altering the invertase by modifying the specific gene for this enzyme, the sugar is transported and fermented directly inside the Saccharomyces. "In my opinion, extra cellular hydrolysis is an inefficient system because it allows other yeasts and bacteria found in the fermentation vats to use the glucose and the fructose", says Stambuk. Stambuk is also an accredited advisor of the University of São Paulo/USP's Post-Graduate Program in Biotechnology. When these contaminating microorganisms ferment, they produce organic acids that result in ethanol production losses. The next step of the research project, which included the participation of researchers from USP's e Chemistry Institute and from the Escola Superior de Agricultura Luiz de Queiroz de Piracicaba, School of Agronomy, will be to test the genetically modified yeast at the Usina Cerradinho mill in the city of Catanduva, São Paulo State, to evaluate how it behaves in an industrial environment. The study obtained funding from FAPESP, by means of a Theme Project coordinated by professor Pedro Soares de Araújo, from USP's Chemistry Institute and from the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico/CNPq agency. These institutions approved the proposal submitted by Stambuk in partnership with Fermentec, a consulting firm specialized in alcohol fermentation, which had announced a bid for Technological Development and Innovation. Stambuk says that his interest in how to capture sugar directly through yeast began in 1997. Some studies that had already raised this possibility had been conducted by Spanish and Australian researchers in the 1980s, but these studies did not progress. Prior to beginning the project that resulted in the genetically modified yeast, the researcher had been advisor to two students in the master's program. These students had discovered the gene responsible for the direct capture of the sugar. "It had already been described in literature that this was possible with the fermentation of maltose, another kind of sugar that the Saccharomyce ferments efficiently", says Stambuk. "The yeast throws the maltose into the cell and ferments the sugar from the inside". Ever since the genetically modified yeast project began in 2005, several strategies have been tested to make the yeast stop producing extra cellular invertase and start carrying the sugar into the inner part of the cell, where the hydrolysis of the sucrose occurs. One of the attempts was successful and resulted in the filing of a patent in April this year, in partnership with Fermentec. This project has also resulted in several master's dissertations and doctorate theses in progress, under the advice of Stambuk and presented at UFSC and USP. Professor Ana Clara Guerrini Schenberg, from USP's Biomedical Institute, who has conducted research studies on yeasts since the 1970s, has emphasized that this new strategy is innovative. "This is a new way of making yeast produce alcohol", said Ana Clara, who was on the evaluation committee of one of Stambuk's students. The researcher, who is conducting a number of projects in this field, including a project on the genome sequencing of industrial yeasts, explains that the genetic modifications become stable inside the yeast because they occurred in the chromosomes themselves. "Many modifications are made with plasmids for yeasts, genetic material which is also found in bacteria. However, this does not work in the industrial field, because these molecules are unstable". [caption id="attachment_62247" align="alignleft" width="300"] Formation of yeast colonies of the Saccharomyces species[/caption] Resistance to heat The other yeast strain that proved to be an excellent producer of alcohol when tested in the lab has another characteristic that makes it appropriate for the conditions that exist in industrial processes. This yeast strain is resistant to high temperatures. "Commercial yeasts for the production of ethanol ferment well in temperatures from 30ºC e 34ºC; the yeast that we developed ferments in temperatures from 37ºC to 38ºC with little cell mortality", says Cecília. As it is very difficult to control the temperature of the fermentation process in the summer, any temperature above 36ºC immediately increases the toxicity of the alcohol in the vats, which results in the death of the ethanol-producing yeasts. Another innovation of this new strain, which is also the object of a patent request filed by the Agência Unesp de Inovação agency in September 2008, is that it ferments quickly. "It makes the total conversion of sugar in up to three hours, while in the traditional process, fermentation takes from six to twelve hours", says the researcher, who has been studying yeasts since the 1980s. This is an advantage because the longer the fermentation time, the stronger the effects of the contaminant microorganisms and of other aggressive factors, such as high temperatures and nutritional deficiency, in the fermentation process. The new strain is also resistant to high quantities of ethanol and to the acidity found in successive fermentation cycles. In order to achieve this result, the researchers selected various strains of the S. cerevisiae found at sugar mills; these strains had to have specific characteristics, such as tolerance to heat and fast consumption of sugar for the production of ethanol. After various tests and combinations, the researchers obtained a hybrid yeast which was given genetic markers that allow monitoring to be conducted during the entire alcoholic fermentation process. "The markets show the proportion of this yeast in relation to the contaminant microorganisms found in fermentation vats", says Cecília. In addition, it's possible to observe if the fermentation cells are going through modifications during harvesting, if the yeast is dominated by wild yeasts and even if it disappears from the process, because it was dominated by its competitors. At present, all of this is being done by means of molecular biology techniques which need specialized consultants. "At the sugar mill, the same yeast is used in various fermentation cycles during the entire harvest, which lasts up to seven months", says researcher Karen de Oliveira, who worked with hybrid yeast during her doctorate studies under Cecília. Karen concluded her doctorate studies in 2008. "In some cases, three different species of Saccharomyce are used at the mills at the beginning of the harvest and after a month, there are no yeasts left", she reports. The yeasts found in the environment or in the raw materials invade the ethanol production process and begin to multiply. "But the yeasts in the environment only have to feed themselves - they don't have to produce alcohol", says Karen, who is currently doing research on the behavior of yeasts during fermentation of sugar cane bagasse hydrolisates as part of her post-doctorate studies. The project, coordinated by professor Cecilia Laluce, and includes researchers Sandra Sponchiado and Eduardo Cilli, is part of the Programa FAPESP de Pesquisa em Bioenergia/Bioen bioenergy research program. "Controlling the stability of yeasts during the harvest is crucial to ensure the continuity of the successive fermentation cycles", says Cecilia. The yeast dies when the fermentation starts getting intoxicated because of excess alcohol being produced or as a result of fermentation stress conditions. This can result in the need to start the entire process over again. "The collapse of a process, with complete stoppage and re-starting means huge losses for the sugar mills", she emphasizes. The next step of the project, which is already being negotiated with the Centro de Tecnologia Canavieira/CTC Sugar Cane Technology Center, is to test the yeast in an industrial process. [caption id="attachment_62246" align="alignright" width="300"] Yeast cells seen under electronic microscope[/caption] Induced mutation The Saccharomyce cerevisiae yeast has stress-support mechanisms, as demonstrated by the lab studies conducted by professor Sandra Regina Ceccato Antonini, of the Centro de Ciências Agrárias, Agronomy Studies Center at the Federal University of São Carlos/UFSCfar), Araras campus. Some factors, such as nutrient deficiency and the existence of some types of alcohols produced by ethanol during fermentation, lead to changes in the yeast's morphology - from single-cell it mutates into filamentous-cell yeast, that is, formed by a chain of cells, many of which are very elongated and 'deformed', - which can make up for the stress-provoked loss of productive efficiency. "This is how the yeast escapes from an unfavorable environment", says Sandra. The researcher has studied this mutation in the alcohol fermentation process, where the yeast undergoes tremendous stress when it is in the fermentation vats. Although this data is not conclusive yet, the researcher points out that filamentation indicates that yeasts have an adaptation advantage, because their surface area increases. "The yeast mutates from a single cell into a long filament", says Sandra, who developed this research study with funding from FAPESP under the regular funding program. She began working on the project in 2005 and concluded it in 2008. As the cellular area increases, higher contact occurs because of the culture. This leads to compensation due to stress-caused cell death. "In a situation in which the yeast is stressed and does not mutate into a filament, the harm caused by stress can be more serious", says the researcher. She points out that even under stressful conditions, some Saccharomyce strains do not change their morphology. The explanation is that this change could be a genetic characteristic, but it is still unknown whether there is a specific gene related to filamentation. "Various genes could be involved in this process". In the researcher's opinion, the fact that this characteristic is found in industrial yeasts means that it has to have some kind of function, because it appears through selective pressure. "At first, I thought that this was a negative characteristic, but then I realized it was important". The Projects 1. Estresse, transporte e metabolismo de alfa-glicosídios em Saccharomyces cerevisiae (nº 04/10067-6); Modality Theme Project; Coordinator Pedro Soares de Araújo - USP; Investment R$ 482.204,54 (FAPESP) 2. Otimização da fermentação de sacarose e produção de álcool por Saccharomyces cerevisiaeModality Technological Development and Innovation; Coordinator Boris Ugarte Stambuk - UFSC; Investment R$ 173.005,92 (CNPq) 3. Aspectos básicos e aplicados da utilização industrial de leveduras (nº 05/01498-6); Modality Regular Funding of Research Project; Coordinator Cecília Laluce - Unesp; Investment R$ 118.245,46 (FAPESP) Scientific Articles BATISTA, A. S. et al. Sucrose fermentation by Saccharomyces cerevisiae lacking hexose transport. Journal of Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology. v. 8, p. 26-33. 2004. BADOTTI, F. et al. Switching the mode of sucrose utilization by Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Microbial Cell Factories. v. 7. 2008. [post_title] => Accelerated fermentation [post_excerpt] => More efficient for the conversion of sucrose into ethanol [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => accelerated-fermentation [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-01-26 16:12:01 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-01-26 18:12:01 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 ) [1] => stdClass Object ( [ID] => 27222 [post_author] => 22 [post_date] => 2009-07-01 00:00:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2009-07-01 00:00:00 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_62280" align="alignright" width="300"] Fiberglass with nanostructured resin[/caption] A new material comprising a polymer resin covered with particles of nanoceramics, to be used in appliances to immobilize wrists and other parts of the body, was developed at the Federal University of Minas Gerais/UFMG. The nanocompound, created to be sold in kits and applied according to the need of each patient, can be sent to any destination in the world. "In the case of an earthquake, for example, this material can be sent on a large scale to immobilize arms and legs; this is a quick and easy way of providing medical care", says professor Antonio Ávila, coordinator of the post-graduate course in mechanical engineering and advisor of the doctorate thesis that resulted in this new product. The product has already been patented by the university's Coordenadoria de Transferência e Inovação Tecnológica, Department of Technological Innovation and Transfer. One of the advantages of this material, in comparison with the imported material used in the appliances called ortheses is the cold-molding process. "When blended with the hardening liquid, the resin produces enough heat to mold the material", says professor Adriana Valladão, from the occupational therapy department at the School of Physical Education, Physiotherapy and Therapy of the UFMG, who developed the material during her doctorate studies. The heating cannot be compared to the thermally molded imported material, a plastic which needs to be heated in hot water at a temperature of up to 70 degrees Celsius before it can be used. But the resistance and rigidity of the materials are very similar. Cold-molding allows nanocompounds to be used also on patients with burns. "Outer layers cover a more rigid inner layer made of fiberglass material and nanostructured material to provide resistance", Ávila explains. To make the patient more comfortable, the fiberglass material is covered with soft neoprene rubber, a synthetic material used in diving suits, for example. In the kits, the outer layer materials, the inner layer materials and the neoprene are packaged separately. The nanostructured material that covers the central part includes montmorillonite, a clay with high absorption capacity, which is treated and baked to transform into ceramic. "The ceramic we are working with is approximately 50 nanometers thick", says Ávila. Brazil has a mine with this kind of clay, but the nanometric granulation processing is not done here because Brazil lacks the appropriate technology. One kilo of this material costs approximately R$ 20,00, which is appropriate for low-cost therapies. [caption id="attachment_62279" align="alignleft" width="300"] Nanoceramic in sample[/caption] Alternative materials From the time she was in the master's program, when she studied the mechanical characteristics of materials used for ortheses available in the market, Adriana realized that the variety of available products was insufficient. "All the products were imported and therefore expensive", she says. From then onwards, the researcher decided to focus her work on alternative materials that would help reduce the costs of the public hospitals and of the Sistema Único de Saúde/SUS the Brazilian Public Health Care System. Initially, Ávila had thought of using nanostructured material for aeronautic applications, as an extension of his post-graduate studies in the field of airspace engineering at the US's University of Arizona. Ávila concluded his post-doctorate studies in March 2004. Adriana had the idea of using nanoceramic in material for orthesis. Work on the project began in 2004 with funding from the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico/CNPq agency and the Ministry of Health. At first, the idea was to work with nanostructured material for wrist ortheses; however, this material can also be used for the neck, back and lower limbs. "We chose wrist orthesis because it is the kind of appliance used in various pathologies, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis and other injuries resulting from repetitive movements, to minimize or reduce the movements of the wrist and thus minimize such symptoms as pain and tingling", says Adriana. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a medical condition which occurs when the median nerve in the wrist gets compressed, causing numbness and tingling in the hands, especially at the finger tips. Twenty six people, whose average age was 22 years, took part in the evaluation of the orthesis. All of them carried out daily tasks, such as picking up heavy objects, typing, and eating. "The objective was to verify whether the orthesis would become deformed or not during these tasks and whether it would keep the wrist in the correct position", says Adriana. When comparing the wrist orthesis developed by Adriana with the wrist ortheses made from thermo-molded material found on the market, the result was quite similar. "Although the rigidity was quite similar to the material currently being used, the orthesis made from the nanostructured compound is quite flexible, which provides a better fit around the patient's hand and makes him more comfortable", she says. A cost analysis of the two materials showed that the one developed at the UFMG is 30% less expensive than the imported material. A 40 to 60-centimeter strip of imported thermo-molded material costs approximately R$ 400,00 while the manufacture of a wrist orthesis costs R$ 52,00. The same kind of orthesis made of nanostructured material costs from R$ 14,00 to R$ 17,00. "As the government spends around R$5 million annually for the financing of ortheses, the difference allows a higher number of people to be treated at the same cost", says Ávila. [post_title] => Resistance and comfort [post_excerpt] => Wrist ortheses made of resin and nanoparticles of clay are customized [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => resistance-and-comfort [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-01-26 16:18:23 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-01-26 18:18:23 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 ) [2] => stdClass Object ( [ID] => 27223 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2009-07-01 00:00:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2009-07-01 00:00:00 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_62304" align="alignright" width="181"] Rare earth elements: compounds of chemical elements emit color when illuminated[/caption] Currency bills coated in extremely fine and translucid polymer films may become the latest solution to guarantee the authenticity of a country's currency. When illuminated with ultraviolet light, for example, the currency bill emits a red light in response, thus confirming the bill's veracity. This technological resource, which can be extended to other easily-counterfeited documents, such as passports, identity cards, driving licenses and official documents, is in the course of being patented by the Agência USP de Inovação, Innovation Agency, responsible for patents at the University of São Paulo. The group of inventors is headed by chemist Hermi Felinto de Brito, a professor at USP's Chemistry Institute, who has been working with rare earth elements since the 1980s. Rare earth elements are the raw materials that are part of these polymer films. Rare earth elements are actually metals; they comprise a group of 15 elements known as lanthanides - which include Lanthanum (La) and Lutetium (Lu) in one file in the Periodic Table - plus two other elements - Scandium (Sc) and Yttrium (Y). The term "rare" was ascribed to this group of elements because when the first metals in this group - which have very similar properties and are difficult to distinguish from other elements - were discovered in the 18th century, they were found only in Scandinavia. Nowadays, they are found all over the world. In Brazil - the world's 10th largest producer - they are commonly found in the Monazite sands on the beaches in Brazil's Southeast Region. The term "earth" is used because initially these elements had been isolated in the form of oxides, together with oxygen, substances which in those times were called "earths". Although not widely used, these elements have luminescent properties and are used, for example, in fluorescent lamps, medical diagnosis equipment, and to form images on, TV and computer screen and mobile phone displays. Although they provide color to TV screens, these rare earth elements are not very colorful in their natural state. Normally, their colors vary from dark grey to silver hues; these metals are soft and flexible. They become more attractive when they are in the form of ions (atoms or molecules that have lost electrons) for some technologies, because of their capacity to emit colored light after being submitted to a source of illumination, such as electromagnetic radiation (X-rays ultraviolet rays, visible light, infrared rays), electron beams, heat, electricity, mechanical energy, chemical or biological reactions. When some of these elements of this rare earth group - such as Europium (Eu), Terbium (Tb) and Thulium (Tm), - are in the form of ions and are submitted to ultraviolet light, they emit the primary colors - red, green and blue, respectively. "In order for a material to emit light, it first has to absorb enough energy from the source of illumination", says Brito, to achieve, for example, the phenomenon known as luminous persistence, which occurs when the electrons of these materials, upon being illuminated, absorb and accumulate the energy they receive. After illumination ceases, the elements relax and go back to their normal state, releasing the excess energy they acquired in the form of photons, which comprise the visible light, or the colored light emitted by the material. This emission occurs in one of two ways: a quick way, called fluorescence, where the entire process occurs in a very short time (measured in nanoseconds) and another slower way, phosphorescence, which can persist for a longer period of time, ranging from milliseconds to hours. However, for this to occur, researchers have to deal with another property of the rare earth ions. "They have a low molar absorption coefficient, that is, they absorb a little energy from the illumination sources", Brito explains. "To overcome this deficiency, we use ligants such as anions (organic molecules) or neutral molecules considered as donors of pairs of electrons, with the objective of collecting light efficiently". In practical terms, the rare earth ion is surrounded by organic molecules, such as dicetonates, carboxylates, and sulphoxides. These ligants absorb the stimulated energy more efficiently and transfer it to the rare earth ion which then releases the energy in the form of colored light. Less expensive According to Brito, the number of research projects on the photo luminescence of rare earth elements has increased significantly around the world, due to the promising optical properties of these systems. "Various compounds of these metals are already being applied; therefore, one must take into consideration the molecular design study (synthesis) that is behind these products", says Brito. The fact that these elements have become less expensive has also contributed to the rising scientific and technological interest in these materials. "Ten years ago, rare earth compounds were very expensive, but now the price has dropped significantly", he explains. "In our research studies, we normally use the doping system (only 1% rare earths), which also makes the product less expensive". Thulium, the least abundant element in this series, is more common in nature than gold, silver and platinum. For the purpose of comparison, it is widely believed that the earth's crust contains 0.02% lanthanides and 0.00002% silver. Thus, thulium is one thousand times more abundant than silver. At USP, Brito's strategy is to prepare a series of new, highly luminescent rare earth compounds that can be used as light-emitting molecular devices. All in all, Brito and his group have already created and tested approximately 200 compounds made from these elements, such as Europium, Terbium and Thulium. They combine the first two elements with a plastic and produce a film or fine film. "This doped polymeric film has 'dual color' characteristics which, under different kinds of radiation and different wave lengths, emits distinct colors", Brito explains. "When this film is illuminated with an ultraviolet lamp, the wave length of which is short (255 nanometers), it emits a green color. If the stimulation is caused by a longer wave length (365 nanometers), it emits a red color". One of the advantages of this dual color system is that it can be used to identify the legitimacy of documents in a more secure and accurate manner because it has two optical markers inside the same system. According to Brito, in addition to the capability of emitting two colors, the thermal stability and the ease with which this polymeric film doped with rare earth ions is processed, makes it an attractive material for a number of applications, such as photonic markers. Brito says that the two-color polymer film patent filed by USP at the Instituto Nacional de Propriedade Industrial/INPI Patent Granting Agency has drawn the attention of technicians from the Central Bank who have already manifested their interest in becoming acquainted with this technology to explore the possibility of using it to mark R$ currency bills. Brito adds that Euro currency bills already have these markers, with different compounds. The Project Photo luminescent preparation and study of the luminous persistence of materials doped with rare earth ions (nº 05/01216-0); Modality Regular Research Awards; Coordinator Hermi Felinto de Brito - USP; Investment R$ 191.572,77 and US$ 6.076,94 (FAPESP) [post_title] => Colored marker [post_excerpt] => Luminescent guarantee the authenticity of documents [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => colored-marker [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-01-26 16:19:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-01-26 18:19:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 ) [3] => stdClass Object ( [ID] => 27224 [post_author] => 23 [post_date] => 2009-07-01 00:00:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2009-07-01 00:00:00 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_62320" align="alignright" width="256"] Polymer nanofiber mat is more resistant to ruptures[/caption] Sophisticated fibers able to retain viruses, bacteria and extremely fine solid particles of liquids or gases, capsules coated by bio-absorbing membranes that release the medical drug into the organism over a given period of time and substrates for the growth of biological organs and tissues are the latest materials being developed in various places around the world. Polymer nanofibers are the main raw material in these products. The production process of polymer nanofibers, also being perfected, is dominated by few research centers around the world. Brazil now has a center of this kind, thanks to the work of the team headed by chemical engineer Rosario Elida Suman Bretas, a professor at the Reology Lab of the Federal University of São Carlos/UFSCar's Material Engineering Department. The research team has developed and filed a patent for two nanofiber production processes, which is conducted by means of a process called electrospinning. This process uses an electrical charge to draw fibers from a liquid. The first patent request, related to the production of polyamide 66 nanofibers (or 66 nylon) was financed by French multinational company Rhodia, which participated in the research project and filed the related patent in France. The second process, related to the production of nanofibers from polyamide polymer 66 nanocompounds (PA66) with montmollironite clay (MMT), had the financial support of FAPESP and the related patent request was filed in Brazil. Polyamide 66 is a widely used polymer in the production of textiles, internal reinforcement of tires, sutures, and lines for fishing rods. Polymer nanofibers resemble a plastic wire composed of polymers or polymer compounds, the thickness of which corresponds to nanometers (1 millimeter divided by 1 million). They are thousands of times thinner than a hair strand or an ordinary textile fiber. They are currently being used by a few companies around the world, among which are the US's eSpin Technologies, South Korea's Nanotechnics and Japan's Kato Tech - to manufacture filters able to retain pollutants of nanometric sizes. One of the material's main characteristics is the extensive surface area, which provides a contact surface with the external environment that is significantly bigger than the contact surface of fibers produced by traditional methods, whose microscopic dimensions can be seen with the naked eye. "A fiber's specific surface area or volume is in inverse proportion to its diameter. This means that the nanofibers have a more extensive area for the same volume of fibers, which is very important for a number of applications", explains Rosario Bretas. "All the processes linked to surface phenomena, such as filtration, for example, are increased through the creation of this enormous surface area", add materials engineer Thomas Canova, research and development manager at Rhodia Poliamida. Therefore, the larger the fiber area, the higher the quantity of pharmaceutical compounds released into the organism by the bio-absorbable membranes (which are absorbed in the form of capsules by the human body or by adhesive patches placed on the skin) over a specific period of time. The same happens with devices for the growth of cells in capillary veins and organs and for the filtration of particles or pollutants. In this case, the larger the area of the fiber, the higher the quantity of pores and the better  the retention in the particles. [caption id="attachment_62319" align="alignleft" width="198"] In the lab, syringe with electrode drips nanofiber to form the mat[/caption] Another important characteristic of polymer compound nanofibers is the possibility of manufacturing fibers with better properties than those of the conventional fibers. This is possible because the compounds are produced from a combination of one polymer with a nanometric-sized particle. These particles, in turn, are able to improve the mechanical properties of a product, such as elasticity and resistance to rupture, the capacity to act as a barrier to various gases and to increase the level of biodegradability. "This is similar to mixing fiberglass and nylon, to increase nylon's resistance", says Rosario. Montmollironite, a kind of clay that provides 66 nylon with higher mechanical resistance, was the particle added to the polymer created by the researcher. The challenge of improving the properties of the compound is to make sure that each nanoparticle is widely dispersed and distributed throughout the entire polymer. Although polyamide 66 is not biodegradable, the group from UFSCar is already working on the development of nanofibers from biodegradable and bio-absorbable polymer nanocompounds, the matrix of which are polyprolactone, poly lactic acid and polyhydroxibutirate polymers, among others. Montmollironite clay and carbon nanotubes are used in all the cases. Carbon nanotubes are cylindrical particles formed from carbon allotropes. "The main objective of these new studies which began two years ago, is to produce bio-absorbable compound polymer structures to support cell growth in site (on the human skin or mucosa to release drugs or help cell growth) and electricity-conducting compounds", says Rosario. According to the professor from UFSCar, the partnership with Rhodia was crucial to the success of the research project. "The company provided the synthesized polyamide 66 especially for electrospinning, that is, with specific molecular weight and adequate chemical composition. This allowed the polymer solution to have the ideal viscosity, conductivity and surface tension for electrospinning", she points out. According to the researcher, polymer fibers with micrometric diameters can be manufactured by traditional spinning methods (fusion and coagulation spinning, for example), but electrospinning is the only technique able to produce nanometric polymer fibers. This method, created more than 70 years ago, has already resulted in more than 30 patents in the United States alone. An electrospinning system is basically comprised of four kinds of equipment: a spinneret, which can be a hypodermic syringe needle; a copper or other metal electrode, a high-voltage (up to 30 kilo volts) direct current power supply, and a grounded collector, such as a rotating drum, to collect the nanofibers. During the electrospinning process, the polymer solution - the polymer plus the solvent - is placed inside the spinneret. Because of the surface pressure, it remains inside, without flowing out. Then, the metal electrode is placed into the solution and connected to the power supply. Electric pressure is applied and when a specific electric field is reached, the polymer solution inside the syringe starts to flow forming a jet. This outflow occurs because when the electric pressure is applied to the polymer solution, an electric charge is induced at the surface of the droplet on the tip of the spinneret. "The mutual repulsion of charges produces a force that is directly opposed to the surface pressure", explains Rosario. As the intensity of the electric field increases, the surface of the droplet at the tip of the spinneret stretches and forms a cone. When the electric field reaches a critical value, in which the repulsive electric force is higher than the force of the surface pressure, a jet of the polymer solution is produced at the tip of this cone. As the jet moves through the air, the solvent of the polymer solution evaporates, forming a polymer nanofiber. This nanofiber is deposited under the collector in the form of an unwoven nanofiber mat. According to Rosario, electrospinning is the only known technique for the manufacturing of polymer nanofibers. To produce metal nanofibers, manufacturers can resort to chemical electroplating. The use of relatively high electric currents, the low productivity of the process and the need to use solvents, some of which are toxic, are the main drawbacks of electrospinning in comparison to conventional spinning methods. "The solvents employed in the process have to be evaporated. This is why it is better not to use toxic solvents. In our research studies, we use water, acetone, dichloromethane, and formic acid, which are not highly toxic solvents", says Rosario, who claims she does not know of any other Brazilian research team that has been able to develop polymer compound nanofibers of 66 polyamide with montmollironite. "In Brazil, a group from the University of São Paulo's Chemistry Institute has been working on this technique for a long time, but they use other kinds of polymers". [caption id="attachment_62318" align="alignright" width="300"] Electronic microscopy of polymer nanocompound nanofibers with montmollironite clay[/caption] The research work conducted by the group from UFSCar has partnered with researchers from other universities in Brazil and abroad. Professors Rodrigo Lambert Oréfice and Alfredo Góes, from the Federal University of Minas Gerais/ UFMG, are working on bone cell growth on the compound structures developed by Rosario. Another partner is chemist Luc Averous, from the Polymer Engineering for High Technologies Lab at France's University of Strasbourg. Averous developed a new electrospinning method about to be patented; he is a specialist in the synthesis of biodegradable and bio-absorbable polymers. The partnership agreement has a two-fold objective. The first objective is the use of new bioabsorbable polymers he synthesized in future research projects. The second objective is to conduct comparative studies of the pioneer electrospinning method developed by his group with the method developed by the researchers from UFSCar. Another partnership was established with Canada's University of Alberta. The objective of this partnership is the research work conducted by professor and chemical engineer Uttandaraman Sundararaj, who developed gold and silver nanofibers through an electroplating process on aluminum oxide. He used this material to manufacture nanocompounds and added polystyrene. The nanocompounds can be used as piezoelectric sensors (that generate an electric field from the action of a mechanical effort), electric discharge systems and electromagnetic interference shielding, among other applications. "Our aim is to make these nanocompounds from the compound nanofibers of a conductor polymer with carbon nanotubes. The electric tests will be conducted at the University of Alberta", says Rosario. The partnerships with the universities in Minas Gerais, France and Canada have the support of FAPESP and are part of a theme project coordinated by Rosário. Professors Elias Hage Júnior and José Alexandrino de Sousa, from UFSCar, are the head researchers in this project. In regard to the two patent requests that have already been filed, the nanofiber production project, which was started in 2003, has resulted in the publication of four scientific articles in Brazilian and foreign journals. Two papers were presented at the 41st International Symposium on Macromolecules - Macro2006, held in Rio de Janeiro in July 2006, and at the Annual Meeting of the Polymer Processing Society, held in Italy in June 2008. The research studies conducted at UFSCar also had the support of the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico/CNPq agency, which financed three scholarship grants. The Projects 1. Nanostructured polymer systems: processing and properties (nº 06/61008-5); Modality Theme project; Coordinator Rosario Elida Suman Bretas - UFSCar; Investment R$ 1.182.988,99 and US$ 643.499,18 (FAPESP) 2. Obtaining nanofibers through electrospinning (nº 07/57359-0); Modality Intellectual Property Support Program; Coordinator Rosario Elida Suman Bretas - UFSCar; Investment R$ 6.000,00 (FAPESP) Scientific article Guerrini, L. M.; Branciforti, M. C.; Canova,T.; Bretas, R. E. S. Electrospinning and Characterization of Polyamide 66 Nanofibers with different Molecular Weights. Materials Research. v. 12, n.2. 2009. [post_title] => Smaller and more efficient [post_excerpt] => Nanofibers will make processes more efficient [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => smaller-and-more-efficient [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-01-26 16:22:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-01-26 18:22:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 ) [4] => stdClass Object ( [ID] => 27225 [post_author] => 22 [post_date] => 2009-07-01 00:00:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2009-07-01 00:00:00 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_62340" align="alignright" width="198"] Brick made from a mixture of sand, cement and sludge from the paper industry[/caption] The sludge resulting from the treatment of water effluents in paper manufacturing, comprised of materials such as kaolin - a kind of clay widely used by the porcelain industry - and pulp, was recycled in an innovative manner. This sludge was used in the production of cement compounds for civil construction, such as sealing blocks, interlocked flooring, and slabs for lining. Sand, cement and the residues from effluent treatment stations go through the adequate processing and form a mortar to which is added gravel to form the compounds. "The innovation is the composition of the material", says professor Adriana Nolasco, from the Forestry Sciences Department of the University of São Paulo/USP's Escola Superior de Agricultura Luiz de Queiroz/Esalq School of Agriculture in the city of Piracicaba, São Paulo State. Professor Nolasco is the coordinator of this research project. "A variety of products can be manufactured, based on the same technology." The proportion of sludge in the combination varies according to the application. The compression resistance tests showed that sealing blocks, dividing panels and compacted bricks - components that require higher physical-mechanical performance - can contain 5% to 10% of the residue, while lining slabs and thermo acoustic isolation panels can contain 20% to 30% of the residue material. Two companies with distinct manufacturing processes were chosen to participate in the research project. Papirus Indústria de Papel, from the city of Limeira, manufactures recycled cardboard from chips; the Piracicaba plant owned by Votorantim Papel e Celulose manufactures paper for printing and special paper from raw materials. The objective was to evaluate the performance of the compounds made from residues from various sources. The result showed insignificant variation in the performance of the materials that were obtained, which indicates that the same residues obtained under different conditions have the same application potential. The study, conducted by Samantha Nazaré de Paiva, who is studying for her master's degree under professor Adriana, resulted in the filing of a patent request for the material and the production process by the Agência USP de Inovaçã, Patent Requesting Agency. The study was also ranked first in the social and environmental solutions category at the Olimpíada USP de Inovação competition held last December. "Recycling the sludge makes it possible to manufacture new construction materials at a lower cost", says the researcher. "It is also an environment-friendly solution, as the residue is suitably disposed of". Large volumes Brazil is the world's sixth largest cellulose manufacturer and the world's eleventh largest paper producer. This ranking illustrates the huge volumes of these materials that are produced in Brazil. There are approximately 220 pulp and paper companies located in 17 states. Data from the 2007/2008 statistical report prepared by the Associação Brasileira de Celulose e Papel/Bracelpa, the Brazilian Pulp and Paper Association, states that 12 million tons of pulp and 9 million tons of paper were produced in 2007. The sludge from the effluents corresponds to approximately 1% of this production volume. These residues are discarded into industrial landfills, at an average cost of R$ 65,00 per ton, plus transportation costs. However, small companies still resort to landfills and city government garbage dumps, in violation of the law. A prior study conducted by Adriana shows that, to make production feasible, 100 kilometers is the longest distance that can separate construction material factories and paper manufacturers. "As these materials are going to compete with traditional construction materials, the logistic costs of the sludge for the factories have to be taken into consideration", she says. The ideal situation would be to have regional production, in the vicinity of the paper manufacturers. "The companies could set up partnerships with the local governments or with third sector organizations to make it feasible for small businesses to produce these materials". By recycling the sludge from treatment stations, companies reduce transportation and disposal costs related to these residues. The companies that manufacture construction materials also benefit from this new technology. "They are able to produce high-quality material and reduce the costs of inputs". The product is manufactured by using conventional technology, and the forms and sizes of the components are the same as those of the products on the market. The findings of this research study are the result of two decades dedicated to the recycling of residues. In 1989, during the presentation of her master's thesis at USP's São Carlos School of Engineering, Adriana produced a compound material from cement and the sludge from the paper industry. "It was a very light material for thermal-acoustic isolation, that could be used to substitute pre-fabricated Styrofoam panels", says the researcher. The project did not move forward at the time, because Adriana was unable to find a commercial partner interested in manufacturing the material. But she did not give up. She continued concentrating on this line of research, which resulted in the development of ceramic blocks and bricks, comprised of this sludge and clay. In this project, conducted from 1993 to 1996, Adriana partnered with Votorantim de Piracicaba - the company was in charge of contacting potteries and ceramic manufacturers in Piracicaba. The results were different this time and the ceramic blocks made of residues went into commercial production immediately after the conclusion of the research study. Several companies started producing this product in 1996, having obtained the manufacturing permit from the Companhia de Tecnologia de Saneamento Ambiental/Cetesb, the State Environmental Authority. The ceramic industry also benefited, because as the residue is quite humid, the consumption of water for the production of ceramic blocks drops significantly. "The cellulose keeps the bricks from retracting before they are baked", says Adriana. Many bricks crack when the clay retracts too much and material is lost. The cellulose disappears during the baking process, but the kaolin - a high quality clay - goes into action. "The ceramic material gains quality in finishing and impact-resistance". [post_title] => Constructive residue [post_excerpt] => Sludge from the paper industry is a compound for construction materials [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => constructive-residue [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-01-26 16:24:33 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-01-26 18:24:33 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 ) ) [humanities] => Array ( [0] => stdClass Object ( [ID] => 27226 [post_author] => 24 [post_date] => 2009-07-01 00:00:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2009-07-01 00:00:00 [post_content] => Out, demon! This literal 'war cry' comes to the minds of many people when they hear someone talking about the neo-Pentecostal church, Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus/IURD, and its neo-Pentecostal 'rivals', because of their 'exorcism' rites, through which demon spirits are exhorted to 'manifest' themselves from the 'individual's inner being' (in the temples, or live, in color, on TV); The 'demons' are generally based on the deities of the Afro-Brazilian religions. To the pastors, however, the devil is not as bad as people think. "Thanks to the devil and to the dynamics which allow the IURD to be aware of everything, this neo-Pentecostal church has increased its growth possibilities. Unlike the church's preaching, the IURD's creation and expansion is mostly due to this being. Thus, more than the candomblé and umbanda Afro-Brazilian religions, the church actually needs to conduct a dialogue with a social-religious tradition that offers sufferings that are equivalent to the devil", explains anthropologist Ronaldo de Almeida, a professor at Unicamp and researcher at Cebrap, whose research study A Igreja Universal e seus demônios (Terceiro Nome, 149 pages, R$ 28,00) was recently launched with the support of FAPESP. According to the research study Economia das religiões, published by the Fundação Getúlio Vargas foundation in 2007, the population of Evangelicals has increased from 16.2% (2003) to 19.9%. The study also shows that, due to the metropolitan crisis in the last decades, the urban sprawl of big cities, increased violence and insufficient access to public services, the neo-Pentecostal Evangelical churches have enjoyed significant growth on the outskirts of big cities. As 'neo-poverty' increases, people usually follow one of two paths: either they get attached to religions with more intense religious practices, such as the neo-Pentecostal denominations, or they lose all hope and abandon religion altogether. The study reveals that the growth of these denominations in the metropolitan regions can also be viewed as a way of taking up the space left by the State, the result of which is unemployment, the increase of 'favelas', (shantytowns) and precarious or no access to public services. The 'old poverty' of the rural areas is still Catholic; the 'neo-poverty' found on the outskirts of big cities seems to be migrating to neo-Pentecostal institutions. "The Liberation theology viewed the poor and oppressed as political actors on the public stage; the 'Prosperity theology' of the Igreja Universal views the poor as economic actors and renders their salvation possible. The church's way of ritualizing money and strengthening the efficacy of the action (via the inclusion of witchcraft into exorcism) provides it with a broad discursive extension", analyzes anthropologist Paula Montero, from USP and Cebrap. "In this new configuration, the codes that refer to health and prosperity, as ethics in the world of the poor, have proved to have enormous mobilization capacity, social capital that is made as its rituals  fill soccer stadiums, television stations and other premises." The question is, do the bishops of the IURD really want the demon to leave?" Sin "The representations of the devil are the backbone on which the symbolic universe of this church is built. The devil is blamed for causing illnesses, conflicts, unemployment, alcoholism; the devil induces people to steal. As Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are the healers of these afflictions, they cure, pacify, provide health, prosperity, and release the faithful from sin and vices. This view denies the action of other spiritual beings as it denies human responsibility for such actions, and thus it also denies the historical origins of good and evil", says sociologist Cecília Mariz, from the State University of Rio de Janeiro. Catholicism has abandoned Satan and his followers since the 18th century. The neo-Pentecostal doctrine, in contrast, preaches that it is necessary to eliminate the existence of the devil. "To the neo-Pentecostals, the other religious denominations are not engaged in this battle; sometimes they are even viewed as the devil's playground, where the demons 'hide' behind deities that are worshipped by these systems, as exemplified, most of all, by the Afro-Brazilian religions, whose deities are viewed as manifestations of demons", adds anthropologist Vagner Gonçalves da Silva, from USP. "Whoever has no God has the devil", were a preacher's words that Almeida heard during his field research. "Evangelicalism does not preach distancing oneself from God because of sin, hence the need for conversion; it preaches that people who had had contact with the devil, because they went to the 'terreiros', the place where Afro-Brazilian religions worship, require 'spiritual release' ", the anthropologist explains. According to the researcher, this 'worshipping of spiritual release' however, can be interpreted as a symbolic inversion of the rituals practiced at the terreiros. Paradoxically, although the initial relationship between these two religious worlds is based on opposition and confrontation, the IURD actually has to acknowledge (indeed, it is obliged to do so, for its own survival) the veracity of everything that occurs in the umbanda and candomblé religions. "This acknowledgment guarantees that possession in the terreiro is also reproduced in the temple, even though in the temple the function of the 'devil's manifestation' is to reveal the devil's strategies to enslave man spiritually and materially". According to Almeida, because of its belief that it is battling an inimical faith, the Igreja Universal actually created a cosmology of evil beings, populating its hell with these entities. "Because of this inverse syncretism, the IURD ultimately produced its own demons, such as the 'pombagira', its 'exu Tranca-Rua', its 'Maria Padilha'. This was done inversely, because the synthesis generated by this inversion sought the element that is equivalent to the entities on the negative side of Christian religiousness (the devil); thanks to this inversion, the church can still maintain its proselytism and demand exclusivity, which is a characteristic of Evangelism", the researcher points out. Worship This is how the Igreja Universal fights against that which it partially helped create; it is not only the former worshippers of the Afro-Brazilian religions that have been converted and now worship at the altar of the Universal; the Afro-Brazilian deities are still worshipped, even though they have undergone transformations. "Neo-Pentecostalism, because it has distanced itself from classical Pentecostalism and has come closer to umbanda and other religions - even though it denies these religions - began to translate the ethos of personal and magical manipulation into its system, now under a 'new management', substituting 'favors' by 'rights' ", Vagner explains. "The church prepared a war-like cannibalism of the inimical faith. The different beliefs of the Brazilian religious scenario are not only references based on which, and by contrast, one can reflect on the identity of the Igreja Universal. More than by opposition, the church governs its expansion process by means of this religious cannibalism, in which the original content of different beliefs can be denied and at the same time be assimilated in terms of their forms of presentation", Almeida points out. Hence its ability to 'soften' Pentecostal asceticism, softening the stereotype of the traditional, historical Protestant believer. This new church enhances worldly pleasures and encourages the consumption of material goods as signs of salvation. "Unlike the invocations of umbanda, in neo-Pentecostalism the exu deity is no longer invoked to act as the messenger or the 'subject of the favor'. His mission now is to be expelled in the name of the healing and the salvation of the believer who is under obsession. As the believer is no longer the home of the 'evil one', the released believer 'expels the favor' and states his 'right to divine grace', talking directly to God", Vagner explains. At the Igreja Universal, the faithful 'take possession of the blessing'. "At the terreiros, 'the service charge' personalizes the payment, which raises suspicions of private interests and exploitation. At the Igreja Universal, this act is viewed as being a 'donation', a direct demonstration of faith to God, to challenge Him. The offering creates an alliance between God and man, through which God is obliged to provide immediate restitution", says Paula Montero. In the words of Edir Macedo, bishop of the Igreja Universal, the believer becomes 'God's partner' and under this privileged status, benefits from the blessings of the Lord. "To prove their faith and gain the rewards, the faithful are induced to make sacrifices or financial donations. The pastors warn that the faithful who do not pay the tithe are stealing from God. As the strength of faith is measured according to the higher or lower risk undertaken at the time the tithe is donated, people who openly want to show the strength of their faith have to undertake high financial risks", explains sociologist Ricardo Mariano, from the Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul/ PUC-RS. "The sacrificial nature that money takes on during the rites of the Igreja Universal removes the violent and barbarian nature of sacrifice (supposedly in opposition to the 'gifts' offered to the gods during the Afro-Brazilian rituals) and transforms it into an abstract relationship of risk, in the manner of an economic investment", adds Paula. The basis of this pecuniary ideology is the so-called 'theory of prosperity', the alliance with God, the guarantee that everybody can have whatever they want if they have faith and they demonstrate their faith with firm conviction. This includes a house on the beach, the latest car model, successful business ventures and even love. It doesn't matter whether it's a spiritual or a physical asset. "Igreja Universal seeks to maximize the provision of real and immediate compensations in the world, adapting its message to the physical and cultural life of the poor masses in order for them to make some sense out of their lives, to explain why they live they way do, justifying their given social standing", Mariano points out. Money is not present only in the religious practices of the Igreja Universal; it is also present in other religious practices. "The Igreja Universal is the only place where the faithful gather once a week to worship prosperity, to listen to the legitimacy of abundance and to hear a sermon that resembles a 'lecture' on market issues", says anthropologist Diana Nogueira de Oliveira Lima, from the Instituto Universitário de Pesquisas do Rio de Janeiro/Iuperj Research Center. "The dynamics of the worshipping and the related media are perspicacious in the sense of awakening beliefs and in the sense of resorting to magical notions of religiousness and denying any accusation of 'marketing that which is sacred'. The Igreja Universal has organized itself in the manner of  exporting a Brazilian church, with branches in various countries around the world (USA, France, among others), directed by a Corporate Bishop, enjoying business and political success, with the power of public and strategic penetration, also anonymously, directed at anonymous individuals and clients. "Therefore, it is a church 'providing services', a secularized religious institution acting as such through its business-client relationship", writes theologian and sociologist Odêmio Ferrari, from the Catholic University of São Paulo/ PUC-SP, author of Bispo S/A: a Igreja Universal e o exercício do poder (published by Ave-Maria, 264 pages, R$ 29,00). "Its originality lies in the fact that it has produced a two-fold inversion: on one hand, its rituals have generalized 'witchcraft' in public spaces; on the other hand, it has made charitable and economic prosperity coincide. After all, the most important ritualistic practices of the Igreja Universal have retrieved the classic categories of Christianity: exorcism and cash donations", says Paula. No wonder apostle Hernandes, the husband of the husband-wife team that heads the Igreja Renascer em Cristo church, which also follows the 'theology of prosperity' answered: "we are being persecuted by the devil himself"  when he was accused of being a swindler. Não-há-céu-sem-inferno-3-300x1991Illness "Igreja Universal and the other churches respond immediately to daily appeals. More than responding to illnesses, the church responds to the fear of some kind of stigmatized illness. In addition to releasing the faithful from their financial bondage, it also promises to make the faithful rich. It is universal in the sense of its broad interlocution with society, aiming at more public space and, if possible, converting the interlocutors to the Kingdom of God", Almeida analyses. Following this path to a universal condition, the neo-Pentecostals have been gaining elbow room in the world of politics. In addition, they have been making well known efforts to use the means of communication - including the Internet (which, together with music, is to provide better access to young people) - in the most efficient way possible. "The Universal and Assembleia de Deus churches know how to take advantage of their authoritarian models as an instrument to capture the votes of their flocks and implement a regime of discipline and hierarchy among their political party cohorts, removing the autonomy of their peers in Congress", says sociologist Saulo Baptista, author of Pentecostais e neopentecostais na política brasileira (published by Annablume, 430 pages, R$ 67,00). Until the 1980s, the position of these churches was one of social and political absenteeism, in spite of a strong anti-communist bias and strong support for the military regime. "Pentecostal politics are exemplified by attitudes such as the belief that smoking and drinking are a sin, but it is not sinful to legislate in favor of the elite and evade taxes to avoid paying for the food, housing and health care of the very needy. From the ethical point of view, participating in a scheme of corruption is not wrong, provided that the scheme benefits the church in the form of ambulances or radio network concessions, because this expands the capacity of 'winning souls for Christ' ", says Saulo Baptista. Nonetheless, the research study reveals that the scandals such as the 'mensalão' hush money scandal and other similar corruption scandals shocked some of the faithful who reacted by refusing to vote for the churches' 'official candidates'. "By entering politics in a corporative manner, the churches have adopted the populist behavior of manipulating the faithful to gain votes and the presence of these groups in the public space has repeated the vices of our national political culture, by refusing to confront social issues and claiming that the related problems are caused by supernatural reasons". The popular 'brother votes for brother' attitude is what led the Evangelical politicians to adopt a horse-trading political profile. "Based on the tripod cure - healing, exorcism, and financial prosperity - and viewing the devil as the source of all evils, the Igreja Universal has carved out a space for itself in the scenario of Brazilian popular religiousness. Refusing to be bothered by further theological issues, the Igreja Universal, more than any other Evangelical denomination, has created a message to meet immediate worldly needs", Almeida adds. The Protestant ethic guided the economic behavior of the Calvinist puritan, the historian says, and the task of the religious institution was only to teach the doctrine of predestination; in the case of the Igreja Universal, the institution itself has a relationship with the market, driven by the Evangelical mission. "It is a true multinational holding company, whose core product is the faith that drives the entire structure". This is why the religious practices of the Igreja Universal include the demon, and the Afro-Brazilian religions, because without these elements, the Igreja Universal would lose its reason for existence and would die away. So, in ideology, just as in rituals, the devil can leave, but he will always come back. References MONTERO, P. Religião, pluralismo e esfera pública. Novos Estudos. Cebrap, v. 74, p. 47-66, 2006. SILVA, Vagner Gonçalves da. Neopentecostalismo e religiões afro-brasileiras: Significados do ataque aos símbolos da herança religiosa africana no Brasil contemporâneo. Mana (Rio de Janeiro), v. 13 (1), p. 207-236, 2007. HILL, J. História do cristianismo. Editora Rosari, 560 pages, R$ 79,00. [post_title] => There is no heaven without hell [post_excerpt] => The dubious relationship between the Neopentecostal churches and the devil [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => there-is-no-heaven-without-hell [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-01-26 19:14:45 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-01-26 21:14:45 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 ) [1] => stdClass Object ( [ID] => 27227 [post_author] => 24 [post_date] => 2009-07-01 00:00:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2009-07-01 00:00:00 [post_content] => Futuro-volver-1-300x2061"Nós somos da Pátria a guarda,/ fiéis soldados,/por ela amados", are some of the words of the Brazilian Army's hymn. During the military dictatorship, many civilians would sing these words without too much conviction. Nowadays, this issue has become more serious. "The Brazilian Armed Forces are facing a major conflict at the moment: they have embraced super-modern concepts yet at the same time they seek to maintain their traditional prerogatives, corporative achievements and old-fashioned structures that border a dictatorial attitude, within an autonomous situation before the State and society. The Armed Forces are going through a major identity crisis", says professional soldier and researcher Paulo Kuhlmann, a professor at the International Relations course at Unesp and author of the doctorate thesis Exército brasileiro: estrutura militar e ordenamento político, presented recently at USP. "Brazilian society and the legislative and government bodies are not overly concerned about issues related to Defense and have very little knowledge about the Armed Forces. On one hand, this grants the military excess autonomy to restrict the format and actions of the Defense authorities. On the other hand, this situation generates constriction in the Armed Forces, because of budget cutbacks and other factors. Government structure, which should maintain the power of the Armed Forces, fails to do so because it does not know the Forces real purpose and functioning", he analyses. "The identity crisis is linked to the disappearance of the enemy since the end of the Cold War and the weakening of the social stratification in most countries. In Brazil, this weakening includes the feeling of revenge manifested by those who were denied access to this stratification. Some military personnel believe that leftist governments take revenge by other means, such as refusing to support the Armed Forces or denying the Armed Forces new military equipment", he adds. A research study conducted by anthropologist Celso Castro, the director of the CPDOC of the Fundação Getúlio Vargas foundation and coordinator of the Consórcio Forças Armadas Século XXI Armed Forces Consortium, on the status of the civil-military relations in Brazil revealed that "the negative burden of the symbolic heritage of the Armed Forces' actions during the military regime is still enormous". In addition, the research study showed that it is necessary to have better convergence of the military education system with the standards and values used in the civil education system because civilians clearly mistrust the standards of quality and biased attitudes of the educational system in the military academies. The Ministry of Defense is going to celebrate its tenth anniversary this year, yet relations between civilians and the military are still imperfect, uncertain, and undefined. "In short, there is a clear contrast with the previous period, especially the 1970's, even though there still hasn't been a real political rupture. Institutional weakness associated with a sovereignty that was atrophied through globalization has generated an 'identity crisis' among the military", say Unesp researchers Ednéia Fázio and Suzeley Mathias in their paper O ensino médio e o papel do Exército. "Brazil's politicians have not focused on the definition of national interests and therefore do not envision 'new threats' that the country will face in the near future", they add. Thus, the training of military commanders to deal with the new challenges upfront is still part of the military context and, to this end, the military has been organizing itself autonomously and has defined the interests of and threats to the country. This is where the danger lies. Futuro-volver-2-300x1991The novelty, which as yet is not known as being good or bad, is the President's recent approval of the project prepared by the Ministry of Defense and by the Office of the Secretary of Strategic Matters. The project's objective is to re-organize the Armed Forces and create a National Defense Strategy, beginning in the second half of the year, to start building up "a professional, advanced military culture" by means of re-organizing, re-focusing and re-equipping the Armed Forces. Once civil society has a say on the project of the Defense Ministry and on the training of the soldier of the future, it will finally be possible to envision what the Armed Forces are useful for. "Nowadays, the Brazilian Armed Forces carry out a number of tasks, the so-called 'subsidiary missions', which include actions to eradicate or deal with dengue fever, provide water to the Semiárido dry region, build highways, among other attributions that add to the concept of building a nation. This concept is preached by the Army as its core mission and is put into practice by military service and the professional training of the military recruits", explains Kuhlmann. "The restructuring of the Army during the transition to democracy occurs at a time when the Armed Forces seek to distance themselves from political-ideological conflict and seek professionalism and modernization". According to the researcher, the Armed Forces wish to professionalize themselves by means of a professional and operational evaluation, based on the efficiency required of a modern military force, although they are constrained because of expenses and the lack of a political possibility to change the system. "In addition, the Armed Forces are worried about losing their political advantage in the sense of influencing young people. The Armed Forces are facing a drop in the number of recruits, reduced to the minimum number possible - and are concerned that military service, which is currently compulsory, will become voluntary". Kuhlmann points out that the military reacts against the US policy towards Latin America. The USA wants the Armed Forces to act as a police force that has to deal with 'new threats' (drug trafficking, organized crime, among other threats), and disregard the idea of sovereignty. "The fear of revenge from society and the undefined status of the Ministry of Defense, viewed as being too young, has led the military to deny the general idea generated by globalization, which states that sovereignty is unnecessary and an anachronism", says the researcher. Recent history underscores these fears: the Falklands War, in 1982, which made the Argentine Armed Forces the butt of ridicule; the democratization of Latin America; the end of the Soviet Union and the resulting end of the Cold War; and, more recently, the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in September 2001, which provoked the resurfacing of militarist ideals, widely believed to be extinct. "The end of the Cold War generated a readjustment in the doctrine of the USA's and Europe's Armed Forces - a downsizing, in view of the end of former conflict configurations", points out Kuhlmann. Military instruction began to disregard the traditional values of Duty, Honor, Country and focus more closely on compensations, more common to professional civil activities, the so-called civilianization of the armies. "In the aftermath of September 11, however, this moment, baptized as 'military post-modernism', was substituted by a bitter state of security. The attitude went back to the original concern of defending the territory, nearly characterizing a return to the traditional past - although the enemy is 'volatile' - by means of the war on terrorism". In Brazil, says the researcher, the first movement in this respect was the creation, in 1984, of the Sistema de Planejamento do Exército/Siplex system, the objective of which was to make the institution operational and to make it more modern. The idea at that time was to increase the number of armed forces personnel; however, the new national and international re-configuration prevented the idea from materializing. Futuro-volver-3-300x1821In Brazil, the Defense priority was moved from the South Region to the Amazon Region. Unlike the situation that occurred during the Cold War, when the defense focus was on the South, where the enemy was restricted, interstate and armed in preparation for a confrontation, in the Amazon Region - the current priority - new and existing threats are perceived, as are the ways to deal with them: empty geographical spaces are being dealt with through the solution of colonizing the region, involving the nationalization and integration of the indigenous people. In addition, the armed forces have to deal with border control issues (arms smuggling, lumber smuggling, etc.) and the confrontation with guerrilla forces from other countries. In short, this is a resistance strategy. "The new geopolitical environment has had an influence on military training". This new environment must provide the military with the ability to take on several different roles, such as scholar, statesman, negotiator, police. But if the military personnel do not have the formal education to fill in the training gaps, they will not be able to carry out their new tasks accordingly in the post-modern world". "Therefore, it is necessary to train the new military personnel so that they can conduct 'new missions', and this will result in closer civil-military relations. This is not as easy as it sounds. If we believe that education is a truly sensitive issue, and given that military education is out of the scope of government actions, then it stands to reason that the Armed Forces enjoy great autonomy, because they can train their personnel, by training their views and attitudes, without being held accountable for their acts", say Ednéia and Suzeley. "In regard to military training, all the reforms want to bring the future military commanders closer to civil society, and this includes the methodology used to educate the future leading classes. But one cannot choose to ignore the military's ability to take up empty spaces (hence the need to train civilians in this respect), nor their ability to adapt and foresee", the researchers point out. There is a reason for the government's intention of moving the seat of the Academia Militar das Agulhas Negras, Military Academy, from the state of Rio de Janeiro to Brasília. The insertion of the Ministry of Science and Technology into the building up of the National Defense Strategy is based on the same reason, and includes measures that maximize the integration of research efforts in civil and military scientific institutions. One issue, however, still bothers the military and Defense experts: the "internal police" role that the government and society would like to impose upon the military contingent. "Existing laws lack clarity and precision on how to regulate the actions of the Armed Forces to guarantee "law and order", a function that causes considerable unease among part of the military contingent. At present, juridical ambiguities that regulate the mission and tasks of the Army make this a banal job, as if though it were a magic formula that would solve all problems", Kuhlmann warns. In his opinion, the danger is the militarization of police institutions and the corruption of the military strata. Likewise, he continues, "complementary missions" should be contemplated cautiously, as in general they are viewed favorably by the Armed Forces, in view of the fact that they increase society's positive feelings towards the military. "The Army already acts in one direction. If we add to this the obsolescence of the national Defense equipment, the low salaries and the poor working conditions - all of these issues change the expectations of those who are in the army barracks and those who want to join the military. Unless there is civilian interference in the military education curriculum, actions will be excessive and the identity crisis will become stronger among the Armed Forces". The researcher points out that when the Armed Forces felt they lacked support, the military personnel lost the references of their values and corporative beliefs related to the fulfilling of a mission that no longer exists. "This was reflected and is still reflected in several episodes of disobedience". At the same time, the indiscriminate use of troops, even though - as civil authorities allege - this has legal grounds, has already caused problems when the troops were called into action without the backing of the President and Congress. Such actions can result in tragic consequences, as attested to by the deaths that occurred during the invasion of the steel mill in Volta Redonda, among others. The importance of this discussion is reinforced by the repetition of some of these issues in the American army, which has always been the paradigm for all of the armed forces. Morton Ender, a sociologist from the West Point Military academy, has just launched a book in the USA: American soldiers in Iraq: mcsoldiers or innovative professionals', a field study conducted with several military personnel in action in Iraq. "Many of the study's results are unexpected, the result of the adoption, by the American army corps, of the principles of efficiency derived from the McDonald's chain, such as speed, stability, etc. This has generated individualist soldiers who believe they are better than their peers, but who ultimately trip on the so-called 'irrationality of excess rationality', a sure-fire recipe to limit creativity, autonomy and spontaneity", Ender explains. "The new soldiers no longer fight for their teams, or for their buddies; they fight for an abstract, nationalistic idea of America. Their attitudes are based on 'America first', which suggests the existence of an 'internationalist-isolationism' among the American troops". This is one of the consequences of September 11. "But this attitude was not what had been expected. Most of the soldiers did not react to the attacks and only a small minority cared enough and went to the battlefield. Today's figures are ridiculous when compared to the epic sacrifices made in previous wars. Few soldiers put their lives on hold to serve 'the common good and an ideal'." The positive point is the growing diversity of the American troops. "Many soldiers that are not the 'typical American soldiers' (white, Christian, hetero, worker, young, physically fit) were finally able to achieve full citizenship within the military organizations. Likewise, the new geopolitical conditions, that require a more sophisticated soldier to accomplish  new missions, opened up more space for female recruits, who are better prepared to deal with the new subtleties demanded by this new form of war", he explains. In fact, this also holds true for the Brazilian Armed Forces because of analogous reasons, albeit less bellicose ones. For those who defend the end of compulsory military service, 'as in the USA' , Ender emphasizes that America is going against the trend and should advocate a universal, national military service. "This could be used to correct many of the social ills that American society is suffering". Indeed, this same argument is being resorted to by the military and civilians in the new Defense project, which advocates the maintenance of compulsory military service and its actual extension to all social classes, and not only to the lower-income class, as has been the case. No matter what happens, in America, as well as in Brazil, Ender points out, there is still a huge gap - between the civilian and military worlds,- and the civilianization of military life is on course, whether in social representation or in representational attitudes. And this, say the experts, is where the danger lies. Reference books ENDER, Morten G. American soldiers in Iraq. Routledge, 199 pages, 2009. BEST, Nicholas. O maior dia da história. Editora Paz e Terra, 332 pages, 2009. [post_title] => Future, going backwards [post_excerpt] => Armed Forces face dilemmas of post-modern society [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => future-going-backwards [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-01-26 19:29:24 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-01-26 21:29:24 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 ) [2] => stdClass Object ( [ID] => 27228 [post_author] => 50 [post_date] => 2009-07-01 00:00:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2009-07-01 00:00:00 [post_content] => In 1944, the Revista do Inep magazine, published by the Ministry of Culture's Instituto Nacional de Estudos Pedagógicos, Institute of Pedagogical Studies, published an earth-shaking study in three issues. The study was based on a survey with teachers and students on comic books, a mass product that had been introduced to Brazil in the previous decade. The conclusion of the study was alarming: comic books were a harmful instrument that was jeopardizing academic education in various ways: discouraging the study of the disciplines, abandonment of children's books and, worse of all, comic books led to mental laziness because they addicted the students to images and skimpy texts. In the aftermath of the study, a battle took place in schools around the country, when fires were organized to burn the comic books. More fat was thrown into the fire when in 1958 professor Antonio D'Ávila published A literatura infanto-juvenil, a treatise that defended children's books and attacked comic books. It took two decades for publishers such as Ibep and Ática to adopt comic book language in their Portuguese, geography, history and math books. Ever since, it has seemed that teachers have peacefully accepted the use of comic books as a para-didactic reinforcement tool. In fact, comic books have almost always been the first contact in various generations of children with reading, writing and entertainment; in addition, they have often been the object of great affection, always linked to childhood. This is the argument exposed in the thesis written by Valéria Aparecida Bari: O potencial das histórias em quadrinhos na formação de leitores: busca de um contraponto entre os panoramas culturais brasileiro e europeu, under the guidance of professor Waldomiro de Castro Santos Vergueiro, from USP's School of Arts and Communications/ECA. In her research, she discusses the importance of comic books in shaping children's taste for books, based on experiences in two countries: Brazil and Spain. At the same time, she focuses on the understanding of the messages transmitted by the text in the stories and by the drawings - which cannot be dissociated one from the other and are complementary to one another in this kind of art. According to the researcher, the elements that comprise comic books, such as literacy, open up possibilities for the insertion of sequential graphic language products in current library and pedagogical practices. "The reading of comic book stories shapes readers that like all kinds of literature, with the advantage that this also creates a childhood reading culture and broad reading communities", she points out. "After all, it must be kept in mind that the training of a reader only achieves maturity if the person enjoys reading. The emotional link is a fundamental element. In this sense, comic book stories, in addition to showing complex contents in an easy manner to beginner readers, also bring to maturity the emotional relationship between the reader and what he is reading". The researcher points out that in a country which only a short time ago was predominantly illiterate, the first contact of the majority of the population with reading occurred in classrooms and public libraries. "We have a generation which, at the beginning of the 21st century, was encouraged to enter a literate and virtualized world, where the reading experience had no meaning in real life. Only pleasure and taste can justify this effort to go up the huge steps comprising literacy and literateness". In her opinion, the hybrid language of comic books, which combines text and image to form complex meanings, results in an attentive, eclectic and proficient reader, able to read several medias and languages competently, and able to produce quality organization of ideas and the formulation of written texts, with entertainment and articulation. Literacy, she goes on, encompasses evolutionary phases as the pre-requisites for the acquisition of reading skills and competencies. First is the decoding phase, which requires memorizing the register of the written language and its graphic reproduction. Second is the reproduction, repetition and own production phase, which requires the memorizing of written language's more complex structures, while at the same time requires the development of motor skills to reproduce the letters and graphic signs, linguistic competencies and linking of ideas and reasoning. "Reading and writing as exercises of reproduction, repetition, and production - when well conducted - lead to the acquisition of reading habits. Habits, in turn, lead to the love of reading, the most sophisticated and personal part of the process to make someone literate". In this context, comic book stories are an important contribution to all these phases: they help memorizing, naturally stimulate the reader's reproduction and own production, lead children to acquire reading habits and, very clearly, shape the reader's taste. "All of these phases have one common element, which comprises the huge mental effort, suffering and necessary commitment, by the individual, to achieve successful literacy. The additional advantage is that these three elements prepare the brain to exercise the left and right amygdalae, because they use hybrid language, facilitating subjectivity and preparing the brain for complex thoughts". In her opinion, it would be impossible to understand the reader training phenomenon, that is, the literacy phenomenon, without the social experiences in the environments in which the social appropriation of reading occurs. Nor would it be possible to become a specialist without living and re-living the phenomenon of reading in its full state. "Comic books draw attention to the more positive aspects of reading, making the teaching of reading more effective and aimed at shaping the reader's reading tastes and personality, as I observed during the interviews form my research study, going beyond the reading necessary to support scientific research". Valeria's research work seems to have put a stop to Brazil's decades-long prejudice towards comic books. "The undeniable popularity of comic books was perhaps responsible for a kind of mistrust of the effects they could have on readers. In view of the fact that they are a widely consumed means of communication and that their contents are focused on young people, comic books had become, early on, object of restrictions imposed by parents and teachers", points out Waldomiro Vergueiro, coordinator of the Núcleo de Pesquisas em Histórias em Quadrinhos, Center for Research on Comic Books at ECA-USP and organizer of the book Como usar as histórias em quadrinhos na sala de aula (Editora Contexto, 160 pages, R$ 25,00), together with Angela Rama, Alexandre Barbosa, Paulo Ramos and Túlio Vilela. The prejudice towards comic books weakened only after comic books had gained a new status, especially in Europe, as an art form and comic books began to be quietly included in educational material. At first, they were used to illustrate parts of school subjects that had previously been explained through written texts. "Mistakes and exaggerations occurred at first, due to the lack of experience in using comic books in the school environment, but initiatives were conducted to refine this process", says Vergueiro. Nowadays, it is common to resort to comic books to transmit content, especially after the evaluation conducted by the Ministry of Culture in the mid-1990s. More recently, the use of comic books in education has been recognized by the Lei de Diretrizes e Bases/LDB law and by the Parâmetros Curriculares Nacionais/PCN Guidelines for Education. "For several decades, comic books have been part of the daily lives of young people and therefore the inclusion of this material in the classroom is not the object of rejection by students who generally view this inclusion enthusiastically". Vergueiro laments the fact that comic books are not being used extensively in classrooms not only in Brazil but also around the world. The fact is that they could be used in several different ways - as para-didactic reinforcement, stimulus for literacy (as comic books are a form of entertainment), etc. "The interconnection of the text and the image in comic books broadens the comprehension of a form that either of the two codes would be unable to achieve alone". According to the professor, some of the teachers are still not familiar with this genre, which prevents them from knowing what to choose and how to use their choice in the classroom. "This unfamiliarity, in addition to the skimpy government incentive that exists at the moment in the sense of fostering the use of comic books, leads to the initiative being left mostly to the teachers". As an argument to encourage the use of comic books in the classroom, he emphasizes the students' familiarity with comic books and with the language elements. This familiarity, which begins in the early stages of childhood, is coupled with easy access to the product (sold at newspaper stands), the low-cost of the material in comparison to other means of communication, the possibility of applying comic books to all fields and disciplines, and the possibility of developing multi-disciplinary studies and projects with comic books. "I think our attitude should be one of permanently explaining to teachers the advantages and possibilities of using comic books in the classroom". In Vergueiro's opinion, the first step in this respect would be to train future teachers who, during their undergraduate studies, could and should have contact with comic books as a work instrument in their future profession. To this end, they should become familiar with leading productions in this field and be advised on how to use them as tools in the classroom environment. "The preconceived idea that comic books draw children and young people away from reading books and other materials has already been refuted by a number of studies. Today we know that comic book readers also read other kinds of newspapers, magazines, etc. The broadening of the familiarity of reading comic books in the classroom leads many students to open up to reading and find it less difficult to concentrate on reading the necessary material for learning purposes". Some people argue that comic books are an excellent way of facilitating the access to reading. "It is already generally acknowledged that comic books are a pedagogical resource. However, in schools in general - schools are the institutions that ratify the use of comic books as being an instrument for teaching and learning - the prevailing idea is that comic books are merely a learning aid, and not a dialogue with literacy. There is a lack of awareness in relation to comic books and the communication possibilities they offer", explains Maria Cristina Xavier de Oliveira, whose doctorate thesis A arte dos quadrinhos e o literário, was presented at USP a few months. Her advisor was Nelly Novaes Coelho. Comic books provide a new way of creating texts and of reading. It is an art that, unlike common belief, has to be learned and understood. The comic book is a means that can serve many purposes, such as arousing a creative outlook, allowing quick reasoning, linking ideas, dominating techniques of composition and visual exploration. Comic books can be a means to train readers "not passive, merely receptive readers, but active, collaborative readers who are important for the reading and construction of new texts", she says. Who said that the comic book you love to read is 'just a comic book'? This person was certainly someone who did not participate in the Campanha de Desarmamento Infantil, the Child Disarmament Campaign held in the city of Recife. In just a few weeks, more than 500 thousand toy weapons were traded in for comic books. The pen that illustrates comic book drawings is certainly much more powerful than the sword or the gun, and a comic book is much more pleasant to see. [post_title] => Who said that comic books are the enemies of books? 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